The US corn addiction

November 2015

Corn growing in Illinois, USA. Photo Creative Commons
According to the US Center for Biological Diversity, world usage of the herbicide, glyphosate, is at an all-time high tied to the proliferation of GM crops. Glyphosate-tolerant GM plants (that is 94% of all soyabean monocultures and 89% of maize) can accumulate the herbicide and be planted in glyphosate-treated soil without harm while the weeds around them perish.

One of the weeds which is perishing on a grand scale in and near GM fields is milkweed.

Milkweed is the sole food for the iconic 'Monarch' butterfly caterpillars. Monarchs are famous for their long-distance multi-generation migrations across the US, but to do this there needs to be a patch of milkweed at regular intervals on the flightpath to feed the caterpillars in preparation for the next leg of the journey.

With all that glyphosate around in the environment, there's just not enough milkweed, few caterpillars, and very few Monarch butterflies left: their numbers are reckoned to have declined 80% in the last 20 years.

But, while we're all fretting over a very beautiful and unique insect, one US farmer is telling us:
"we've missed the entire point about GMO food".

Americans are just about as dependent on corn and soya, now largely laced with glyphosate, as the Monarch's are on milkweed. Consider that nine out of every ten bites of US food are created courtesy of GM ingredients: from all manner of livestock reared on GM feed, to tortilla chips, to the corn syrup in every kind of processed snack, drinks and 'healthy choices'. One inquisitive scientist determined that 69% of the average American's body carbon is derived solely from corn, 89% of which is GM. And that's not counting in the carbon from GM soya.

This is indeed a serious dependency problem, but it too is missing the point about GMO food.

Google Map photos of the State of Illinois, a major grain-growing State, just before the planting season, tell all. What you see is brown. Brown is bare earth, sprayed with glyphosate ready for the spring planting.

In order for maize and soya to grow, requires death on a massive scale. Death on a scale so massive you can see it from outer space.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 170 million acres of corn and soya are in production in the US. At a conservative estimate of 10 gallons of glyphosate per acre, this translates into 2 billion gallons of the herbicide poured onto American soil this year alone. We're talking about an area the size of California and Montana combined, which we're killing dead each year to grow mainly GM crops, mainly contaminated with glyphosate.


The next phase of the Google Map photo is, of course, an ocean of GM corn and GM soya, waiting to slake the American addiction.

Nothing much can swim in that ocean, and Americans are drowning themselves in it.

Let's not go there.


  • Sam Levin, California EPA moves to label Monsanto's Roundup "carcinogenic", East Bay Express, 5.09.15
  • We've Missed the Entire Point About GM food - A Farmer Explains Why,, 22.09.15
  • Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U. S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption,, data 2000-2015

Who knows what scientists don't know

November 2015

Photo Creative Commons
Writing in the Huffington Post, one US farmer quoted a poll earlier this year which found that 93 percent of Americans believe that GMO food should be labelled. He commented "Consider this statistic a moment: 93 percent of Americans actually agrees on something. This from a society where 26 percent of respondents still believe the sun orbits around the earth."

Patents on every bite

November 2015
Photo Creative Commons
The GM mindset which has successfully manipulated common-sense to allow living organisms to be 'invented' has been expanded to allow something even more unholy.

Swiss biotech giant, Syngenta, has been granted a patent on some novel tomatoes, including the plants themselves, their seeds and their fruit.

The novelty value of these tomatoes is their particularly high levels of 'flavonols' which are micronutrients recognised as being healthful for the heart besides having anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-allergic, and anti-inflammatory  properties.

Despite the patent, the tomatoes are not GM, but have been 'invented' by crossing flavonol-rich wild tomatoes with domestic varieties.  Extensive (expensive) genetic science was, of course, employed to find the appropriate wild strains and to guide the breeding process, but why the fancy tomatoes should command more than old-fashioned breeders' rights isn't clear.  Moreover, European patent law prohibits patents on plant varieties and on methods of classical breeding.

Watchdog organisation, No Patent on Seeds, has pointed out that the European Patent Office (EPO) exists to promote innovation in business, and is controlled only by a single Administrative Council.  EPO revenue is increased by granting patents. There seems to be little or no incentive to refuse a patent.

For the European public, this patent on conventional tomatoes opens the door to ownership of all our food by big corporations: all they need to do is find a gene in a wild relative to 'enhance' your food with.


Back in 2012, the European Parliament demanded the EPO stop granting such patents on conventionally-bred plants. If the Parliament is powerless, we need networking amongst governments to put a stop any more such patents. 

Safeguard your future food: demand a STOP to patents on life.


  • Yao LH, et al., 2004, Flavonoids in food and their health benefits, Plant Foods and Human Nutrition 59(3)
  • Sally Robertson, What are Flavonoids?
  • New patent granted on tomatoes derived from classical breeding, No Patents on Seeds, 25.08.15

Maize - MON 810 harmful to aquatic life

November 2015

GM maize, 'MON 810', has the third highest number of regulatory approvals globally.  The transgenic plants generate a look-alike bacterial protein, 'Cry1Ab', one of the 'Bt' insecticides, which targets specific pests.  Cry1Ab was the first GM insecticide to be commercialised and is approved for cultivation in the EU, although it has been prohibited in several Member States due to concerns of a risk to biodiversity.

Bt crops - a dead-end street?

November 2015

There's no escaping the fact that farming creates pests.  Nature's monocultures, such as the carpet of bluebells in the woods, choose a time and a place where they don't coincide with anything that might eat them, and can make themselves quite impalatable to passing diners.  Cultivated plants aren't so lucky: they have to grow where and when a human being dictates, and becoming a bugs' banquet is an occupational hazard they're not properly equipped to deal with. 

In the mid-1900s, synthetic pesticides revolutionised agriculture and crop fields got bigger and bigger.  Farmers' joy was short-lived: pests with resistance to the chemicals weren't long in arriving.  By the 1980s, completely susceptible pests had become uncommon, and new pesticides were thin on the ground. 

Then came another revolution in pest control: pesticidal plants which infused themselves from fruit to root with 'Bt' toxin to kill the pests stone dead. 

GM-free Scotland, and getting closer

November 2015

Photo Creative Commons
On August 9th 2015, GM-free Scotland moved a step closer to reality.

Taking a "very brave step ... given the political power of the GM-crop proponents"* Scotland will not grow GM Crops.

How this became possible arose due to an unprecedented, and total, lack of consensus by EU Member States: they have never reached the required qualified majority either in favour or against any draft GM authorisation proposed by the Commission.

This recurrent "no opinion" limbo has meant all 67 GM food and feed authorisations have been granted by default.